Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Facts To Know

Vitamin B 12
Vitamin B 12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency is quite common in developing world. It is a condition which can present with non-related symptoms. In severe deficiency it can affect the brain and blood circulation as well. From early times it is known to cause a typical set of anemia or blood deficiency disorder called pernicious anemia. The major cause of its deficiency is due to non-absorption from stomach. Women of childbearing age and older people must make sure they take enough Vitamin B12.

   Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) plays a necessary role within DNA synthesis and neurologic function. If this deficiency is not corrected early it can destroy the nerve cells of brain and spinal cord. Profound anemia and rapid decline in blood cells is dangerous to life. Hence, vitamin B12 deficiency must be diagnosed early and managed appropriately.

You can get Vitamin B12 from dietary sources such as meat, eggs and dairy products.  Ideally you should consume about 2.4 μg vitamin B12 per day. But out of this only 50-60% is absorbed in your stomach. Rest of it gets excreted.

What causes Vitamin B12 deficiency?

  • Vegetarian diet
  • Chronic Alcohol Intake
  • Autoimmune Diseases destroying stomach cells – Pernicious anemia
  • Disturbed absorption from stomach due to gastritis
  • After surgery of stomach
  • Bacteria overgrowth in stomach
  • Oral contraceptive pills
  • Certain Medications like Metformin taken for PCOD, acid-suppressing agents.

What are the features of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

Low blood hemoglobin content

Otherwise called anemia, it can make you feel weak and tired. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. When there is anemia, the oxygen-carrying capacity is reduced. Your cells in the body don’t get enough oxygen for energy. As a result, it makes all the body parts feel weak and fatigue. In vitamin B12 and folate scarcity anemia blood cells are larger than normal. Hence this type is called megaloblastic anemia.

Nerve Cell Damage or Degeneration

Long-standing and severe deficiency of Vitamin B 12 can result in damage to brain and spinal cord. Vitamin B12 is used to form the nerve cells through Folate cycle. When vitamin B12 is deficient the DNA synthesis is stopped and cell replication is impaired. As a result, there is nerve weakness, pain in mouth, and tongue. There may be numbness in hands and mood changes also. To start with you may experience loss of sensations in feet and legs. It may progress to the extent of an inability to walk.

Heart disease in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus

In patients with diabetes high levels of plasma homocysteine causes cardiovascular disease, including stroke. Other risks are coronary artery disease and peripheral artery disease in these patients. Folic acid and vitamin B-12 deficiency can cause increased homocysteine level. If taken together or separately will reduce the risk of major vascular events.

Memory loss and psychosis in elderly

Elderly people can go for depression and irritability with this deficiency. Memory loss or impairment and psychosis are other probabilities. Alzheimer’s disease may be related to vitamin B12 deficiency.

Neurologic and psychiatric abnormalities associated with vitamin B-12 deficiency may not reverse, despite proper supplementation.

Pregnant and lactating mothers 

Deficiency of Vitamin B12 can increase the risk of brain defects called neural tube defects in the unborn child. Low vitamin B12 in the pregnant mother is a potential risk factor for NTD. Hence pregnant and lactating mothers should take enough of it.


When vitamin B12 supply is low, the folate needed for DNA synthesis cannot be utilized.  This hampers DNA synthesis and cell replication is impaired.

Loss of vision

Vitamin B12 deficiency can be the cause of vision loss in the elderly. Risk factors for vision loss may be increasing age or presence of disease in the family. High blood pressure or hypertension, smoking, obesity, sunlight exposure and high cholesterol are other risk factors. Vitamin B12 deficiency can damage the vision receiving site called macula in the elderly. This leads to the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Also here is risk of frailty, both leading causes of disability in the elderly.

What you must know about Vitamin B12 deficiency

  • Vegetarian diet can’t provide you vitamin B 12. Hence, vegans are always at risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency. However, they can take supplements of vitamins to fulfill the need.
  • Elderly people are also at risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency. They often don’t take proper food due to lack of appetite. They are at high risk of developing neurological and psychiatric problems due to lack of the vitamin.
  • Vitamin B12 is mixed including a protein known as an idiosyncratic factor within thy stomach. This mixing over nutrition B12 then the intrinsic thing is afterward plunged of the body among part of the intestine referred to as the distal ileum.
  • Certain common medications interfere with the absorption and working of vitamin B12. This consists about partially heartburn medicines as consist of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like rabeprazole, omeprazole, esomeprazole, lansoprazole, or pantoprazole; H2 Blockers certain namely cimetidine, famotidine, and ranitidine. Also, certain diabetes tablets such as metformin can reduce the intake of this vitamin.
  • If you feel “pins and needles” within the arms then feet then you might be having vitamin B12 deficiency. This sign is due to nerve damage and degeneration.
  • Pale skin and yellow coloration of skin, referred to as jaundice, may additionally stay a sign atop vitamin B-12 deficiency.
  • Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency as reasons a swollen, smooth, crimson tongue. It may cause mouth ulcers.
  • Increased risk of frailty and disability is found with poor B vitamin status. They show up with muscle wasting, diminished strength, often with weight loss. It may be with or without reduced nutritional intake. Frailty means an increased risk of stresses and diseases. Suffering after a disease takes longer duration and more complicated recovery from illness or surgery.

What to do in Vitamin B12 deficiency?

People taking regular nonvegetarian diets don’t see this deficiency. A well-balanced diet is all that essential.

Injections of Hydroxy cobalamin that is Vitamin B12 can be taken for 2 weeks as per doctors advice. It is usually accompanied with Folic acid supplementation.

Causes of this deficiency should be investigated and treated. Otherwise there is a chance of recurrence of the disease.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency
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